Opinion: Beyond editing to writing large genomes ($)

This is an era of rapid acceleration of our ability to both read and write genomes. Chari and Church point to a future in which making a small number of changes in a genome (editing) is supplanted by making hundreds or thousands or more of changes, essentially whole-genome editing. Basically, the authors point out, when genome-wide association studies show us that many genomic loci contribute an effect, why focus on changing just one? They note the numerous potential applications of such genome-wide editing, from human health, to metabolic engineering for small molecule production, to improved crop plants. Besides presenting a fascinating vision of the future, the authors provide a useful directory of DNA-editing nanomachines and they discuss the pros and cons of genome editing versus de novo synthesis. I’d recommend this article to anyone teaching a genetics or molecular biology course – it’s sure to stimulate minds and discussions. Nat. Rev. Genetics 10.1038/nrg.2017.59